Saturday, August 9, 2014
US bombs positions of the Islamic State and drops food for the Yazidis
Outside Arbil airstrikes could be seen.
U.S. warplanes bombed Islamist fighters marching on Iraq's Kurdish capital on Friday after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent "genocide". The Islamic State fighters have advanced to within a half hour's drive of Arbil, capital of Iraq's Kurdish region and a hub for U.S. oil companies.They have also seized control of Iraq's biggest dam, Kurdish authorities confirmed on Friday, which could allow them to flood cities and cut off vital water and electricity supplies.
The Pentagon said two F/A-18 aircraft from an aircraft carrier in the Gulf had dropped laser-guided 500-pound bombs on the fighters' artillery and other air strikes had targeted mortar positions and an Islamic State convoy.
The U.S. Defense Department said planes dropped also additional bundles of supplies, bringing the total to 36,224 ready-to-eat meals and 6,822 gallons of drinking water, for threatened civilians near Sinjar, home of the Yazidis. They are ethnic Kurds who practice an ancient faith related to Zoroastrianism. The Islamic State considers them to be "devil worshippers". After fighters ordered them to leave, convert or die, most fled their towns and villages to camp out on Sinjar mountain, an arid peak where they believe Noah settled after the biblical flood.
The Islamic State at the end of July blew up the 14th century Nabi Jirjis Mosque (mosque of the prophet George). Earlier the IS also destroyed the mosques of the Prophet Sheeth (Seth) and the mosque of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah), who in stories from both the Bible and Qur'an is swallowed by a whale (see picture below). IS claims that mosques devoted to a cdertain person or saint are places of for apostasy.
One of the peole who fled said: ''After we fled to the mountain, I returned one day to recover belongings and I saw the bodies of the elderly disabled men who had been shot dead by the Islamic State. They were too old to flee. I can't forget that scene." In the Kurdish capital, suddenly near the front line for the first time after a decade of war, defiant residents said they were stockpiling weapons and prepared to defend the city. "People with children took them to their families (outside Arbil), but the men have stayed," said Abu Blind, 44, working at a tea stall in Arbil bazaar. "They will have to trample over our dead bodies to reach Arbil."
The Kurdish region has until now been the only part of Iraq to survive the past decade of civil war without a serious security threat. Its "peshmerga" fighters - those who confront death - also controlled wide stretches of territory outside the autonomous zone, which served as sanctuary for fleeing Christians and other minorities when Islamic State fighters arrived in the region last month. But the past week saw the peshmerga crumble in the face of an advance by the fighters, who have heavy weapons they seized from Iraqi army troops that abandoned their posts in June. In addition, the fighters are flush with cash looted from banks.
The rubble of the shrine of Yunus (Jonah).
Meanwhile a political stalemate, that started after the elections in April, persists in Baghdad. The pressure mounts on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to quit and make reunification of the country possible. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a 84-year-old scholar whose word is law for millions of Shi'ites in Iraq and beyond, has repeatedly pushed for politicians to break the deadlock and reunify the country. His weekly sermon on Friday, read out by an aide, was his clearest call for Maliki to go. Though he did not mention Maliki by name, he said those who cling to posts were making a "grave mistake".
In Arbil, hundreds of foreign oil workers flooded the airport on Friday as oil companies in Iraqi Kurdistan withdrew more staff. Some of the biggest oil operators in the region have lost almost a quarter of their market value this week.The Islamists' lightning offensive and the threat of U.S. military action sent shares and the dollar tumbling on world financial markets, as investors moved to safe haven assets such as gold and German government bonds.